The California Corridor is the staging ground for what could be a revolutionary leap forward in fast ground transportation, as tech companies move forward with ultra-high-speed magnetic levitation systems. And it sounds like the future is approaching faster than expected.
At least three companies are in the news this week with plans to develop “Hyperloop” systems that would use the technology to zip passenger pods or compartments along at speeds of up to 750 mph. The competitors are raising tens of millions of dollars in venture capital, and some are already working on small-scale test tracks.
One is a company called Hyperloop One, inspired by Tesla and SpaceX guru Elon Musk; it would shoot passenger capsules through a low-pressure tube on a cushion of air. (Magnetic levitation systems rely on magnetic forces to lift vehicles above their guide rails, eliminating all that friction that slows down regular trains.) Today, the company completed an initial “test run” in the Nevada desert– see below.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the company’s plan is to create a fully operational hyperloop system by 2020.
— CNBC (@CNBC) May 11, 2016
Another firm, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, has licensed Maglev technology developed by California’s renowned Lawrence Livermore Laboratories. The third is a firm called SkyTran, which envisions Maglev vehicles traveling on elevated tracks and is working with NASA.
If the firms achieve the suggested goal of 750 mph, it could mean a San Francisco to L.A. trip in just 30 minutes – without the hassle of airports. Maglev technology is already operating in Japan and China. Last year, a Japan Railways Maglev train achieved a record speed of 374 mph, suggesting that the American developers still have a ways to go. In China, Maglev trains operate between Shanghai Pudong Airport and central Shanghai at speeds of about 268 mph.
Whoever comes out ahead with the technology, a working California Corridor Hyperloop line is many years away. First of all, there’s the cost, estimated at $6 billion. Then there are the logistical difficulties of building a safe and secure route through heavily populated and developed areas – not to mention that much of the corridor is an earthquake zone.
But it’s sure fun to dream about for now. And exciting to see tangible progress toward reality. In the meantime, we have the Sleepbus 🙂
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